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The Outsiders

S. E. Hinton

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Chapter 4

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of S. E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders.

The Outsiders | Chapter 4 | Summary



Ponyboy and Johnny go to the park to cool off and calm down. Bob, Randy, and three other Socs show up there in the blue Mustang, and they are obviously drunk. The Socs are also angry about the greasers picking up their girlfriends at the drive-in theater, and Bob warns Ponyboy and Johnny, "Next time you want a broad, pick up yer own kind—dirt." Johnny is terrified, "watching the moonlight glint off Bob's rings with huge eyes." It's clear Johnny recognizes Bob as the Soc who beat him brutally and left him for dead in the vacant lot four months ago. Johnny goes "as white as a ghost" with eyes that are "wild-looking, like the eyes of an animal in a trap," according to Ponyboy. One of the Socs attempts to teach Ponyboy a lesson and give him "a bath" by holding his head underwater in the fountain. Being drunk, they may not realize it, but Ponyboy is drowning. "The next thing I knew I was lying on the pavement beside the fountain, coughing water and gasping," Ponyboy narrates. Johnny is next to him, "staring straight ahead," and informs Ponyboy that he "killed that boy." Ponyboy vomits before he confirms what happened. Johnny tells him, "I had to. They were drowning you, Pony. They might have killed you."

Ponyboy freaks out, screaming, "They put you in the electric chair for killing people!" Ponyboy admits he is trembling, "but Johnny, except for the fact that his hands were twitching, looked as cool as Darry ever had." Despite the murder being self-defense, both boys decide to run away before the police arrive at the scene of the crime. Johnny remains cool headed and makes the plans: "We'll need money. And maybe a gun. And a plan," he says. They decide Dally can help them and track him down laying low with broken ribs at his rodeo partner's place after a fight with Tim Shepard, head of another greaser gang. Dally gives Ponyboy and Johnny a loaded gun, $50, a shirt and a leather jacket for Ponyboy, who is wearing a soaking wet sleeveless sweatshirt. He also gives them directions to an abandoned church out in the country where they can hide out, and warns them to get supplies first thing in the morning before the story has a chance to appear in the newspapers.

Ponyboy and Johnny hop a freight train in the middle of the night and leap off into a meadow in the midst of farms. Ponyboy realizes his dream of being in the country has actually come true, but not in the way he had hoped. But he knows it could be worse as he envisions being "sent to a reformatory," Johnny getting "the electric chair," and Dally being "jailed again for giving us that gun." The gravity of the situation is starting to hit Ponyboy with full force now. Ponyboy gets directions from a local farmer. After a 45-minute walk, they arrive at the small, spooky, abandoned church and both fall asleep.


Both Ponyboy and Johnny automatically assume they will be blamed for the accidental killing. Despite Johnny's comment to Ponyboy explaining he couldn't let the Socs drown his friend and do nothing about it, neither of the boys seem to realize the crime was committed in self-defense. Further, the nervous, mild-mannered Johnny and shy, daydreaming Ponyboy are the two youngest and most innocent members of the greaser gang, yet they end up in the most serious trouble.

This proves the frequent laments of the greasers that the odds are very much stacked against them. Johnny and Dally both assume, and accept, that running away from the scene of the crime is the better option. They intrinsically understand that once the police get involved, things will not go favorably for the greasers, even though the drunken Socs picked the fight and tried to drown Ponyboy completely without provocation. It's clear from this chapter that the differences between the greasers and the Socs extend beyond economics, into the realm of wider social prejudice, with very weighty consequences.

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